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Phantom Pain and Phantom Sensation

Phantom sensation

Sometimes after a body part has been amputated, it feels as if that part is still there. This is called phantom (FAN-tum) sensation. It is a normal part of healing after surgery. Phantom sensation is not pain, but is a “tingly,” cramping, or itching feeling where the missing part used to be. It is not a very unpleasant sensation. For some people, phantom sensation goes away with time.

Phantom pain

While phantom sensation is a feeling that the amputated limb is still there, phantom pain is painful. The pain feels as if it is in the part that is missing, especially in a foot or hand. Not all amputee patients have phantom pain. Phantom pain can be short-term or it can last for a long time. It may feel like a burning, crushing, or stabbing sensation.

Desensitization

This is one treatment for phantom pain and phantom sensation. At first, the end of your remaining limb will be sensitive to touch. Desensitization is important to prepare for wearing an artificial limb, also called prosthesis. Techniques include touching, lightly massaging, tapping, and rubbing different textures of fabrics, such as a wash cloth or towel, over the end of your limb. Your therapist will discuss other desensitization techniques.

Other treatments

Your doctor may:

  • Recommend limb wrapping or bandaging
  • Prescribe medicine
  • Recommend desensitization

It is very common for people who have recently had an amputation to have phantom pain or sensations. Speak with your doctor about treatment options.

Reviewed July 2013​
 

 

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